Christmas Shopping scene
Critical website issues could mean a quiet Christmas

Just in case you hadn't noticed or were trying to avoid it, the buildup to Christmas is in full swing. Trees and decorations are going up in the high street, Christmas advertising is on the telly and most things will start to be accompanied with a sprig of holly, a dusting of fake snow and a mince pie.

November is often the month where website owners and managers dress the homepage of their website with the aforementioned sprig of holly and extend their seasonal good wishes. Somehow, this visual update will impress upon the visitor that Christmas is upon us and compel them to make more purchases.

I actually don't mind the little snowmen standing next to the logo or the snowflakes, baubles and tinsel that start to adorn many a homepage at this time of the year.

But whilst you are planning these seasonal updates to spruce up your website it makes sense to carry out a thorough audit of the site at the same time.

What good is a website audit at Christmas time?

Reviewing your website regularly is generally a good idea and becomes even more important immediately prior to many website's busiest time of the year.

Throughout the year, most websites will have had some work done, perhaps to refresh the design, extend functionality, add new sections or improve SEO. These projects are often considered individually and the website is not retested in its entirety each time updates to the site are carried out.

Additionally, taking a bit of time to review your checkout process, product pages and other central aspects is vital to pick up issues that may be affecting your sales. Quick wins to improve usability can often be found that could lead to increased sales.

Carrying out a detailed website audit will provide invaluable feedback of your entire website, finding bugs and issues plus identifying areas that can be improved so you can maximise your site's potential until the last sales day before Christmas.

What does a website audit cover?

Having someone external to your business review the website provides feedback that may not otherwise be picked up due to a certain blindness that can develop from being close to a project.

An audit should cover, but does not have to be limited to, the following main areas:

1. Functional - there can be some big errors hiding just under the surface of your website. Broken links, scripts not working, images not displaying, functionality not at 100%, waiting to be discovered. These issues can be caused by previous sets of updates or work carried out that has then not been tested fully or not checked in relation to other functionality within the website.

A website audit will review all the main aspects of the website and go through the site in detail to pick up as many bugs and issues as possible. These items are then prioritised so that the most important can be fixed and keep the sales ticking over.

2. Browser Compatibility - in a similar way to the functionality testing, browser layout problems and functionality issues in different web browsers can crop up that may be rendering your website unusable in certain browsers.

As new web browsers are released then certain areas of your website may not display correctly in the new browser. An example of this is the usage of Google Chrome increasing dramatically throughout 2010, which has caught many website owners and developers out as high profile sites had not been tested sufficiently in this web browser.

Reviewing your website in each major web browser will find any browser related layout and functionality issues that can then be prioritised alongside other issues and fixed.

3. Performance - in the period before Christmas you want to be sure that your website is not going to suffer from any performance issues. Even identifying a handful of performance improvements can make a noticeable difference to page load speeds, which will mean more visitors staying with you through to the checkout page.

The website audit will review the current performance and make recommendations on the items that will make the biggest difference to reduce page load times.

4. Usability - a fresh look at your website will often pick out usability aspects that can be improved and have a positive impact on sales due to customers being able to use your website more easily.

As part of the audit, we will identify any areas that we found difficult to use or confusing and put forward suggested solutions and improvements.

5. Web Standards - for websites that advertise that they comply with web standards including accessibility, HTML, CSS it is important that they continue to pass these standards.

The website audit will check that the website complies with each web standard.

6. SEO - search engines are the lifeblood of many websites, a problem could be catastrophic in the approach to the festive season. By the time falling visitor numbers are spotted it may be too late to identify the issues and put them right.

Checks are completed across all the main SEO aspects to ensure that everything is in its place.

Website Audit Priorities

At this time of the year, the priorities will be to tackle any critical issues as soon as possible and then be confident that all the most important aspects have been dealt with.

The less important items can be picked up again after Christmas and completed as part of a New Year cleanup once the rush dies down.

We record all items in our bug tracking system, prioritised with critical issues first, so that you can feed your developers the most important items to work on straightaway before returning later to deal with medium and low priorities.

For consumer sites there is still time to review your website and tackle any issues that might hinder your sales during the busiest time of the year.

For business to business firms that are not so busy at this time of year it is the perfect opportunity to check over the website in detail and fix any problems before busier times ahead.

Before the Christmas rush really takes off, carry out a thorough website audit of your website site to uncover issues that will impact on your sales. Be confident that your website is ready.

Contact us to book your website audit.

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

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